Rebecca Pearce looking after her daughter at bedtime

Can you actually look forward to bedtime?


We spoke to children’s nurse Rebecca Pearce to find out how to turn most parents’ nightmare into quality time

Tech hacks that make bedtime magical


It should be blissful. But let’s be frank. Sometimes—a lot of the time, even—bedtime is bedlam.

If you want to get a sense of the scale of parents’ frustration with the supposedly simple task of tucking their children up in bed, look to Mumsnet. Over a thousand threads on the subject are added to the platform a month. Bed and bath time are consistently voted by parents to be two of the most stressful parts of the day. But—as with everything to do with our little angels—there’s a flipside. We also consider them two of the best bonding times too.

“It’s absolutely vital that children get a good night’s sleep,” says children’s nurse and mum of two Rebecca. “It affects their mental health, their wellbeing, their performance at school, their ability to manage their emotions...”.

Studies have shown childhood lack of sleep leads to attention and behavioural problems, and can even lead to increased risk of obesity and diabetes.1 However, if bathtime turns into a battle at sea, or your bedtime routine’s gone rogue, don’t panic. There’s an app (or a tech hack, at any rate) exactly for that.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommends that children should step away from screens at least an hour before their bedtime.

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health The health impacts of screen time—a guide for clinicians and parents

Routines rule


When it comes to ‘lights out’, every child and every family is different. But whatever routine suits you, “the consistency of it is key, to give them the cues that it’s bedtime; to allow them to start winding down,” says Rebecca.

Every child is different, so it can be a bit of trial and error to begin with. There are a few things you can do, though. Step one: switch the screens off in good time. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health recommends that children should step away from screens at least an hour before their bedtime.

Why? “Watching something is very stimulating,” explains Rebecca—and that’s not only because the content is exciting. As adults, we all know that the blue light from tablets and phones can affect our sleep cycles, so naturally the same goes for kids and TV. Late telly-time tells their brains it’s still time to party. In fact, one study found that two hours of exposure to blue light at night could slow or even stop the release of the sleep hormone, melatonin. EE WiFi Controls let you pause the WiFi at a click of a button, or even schedule an internet freeze on your kids’ devices.

Next up? 4% of parents and 60% of children take a bath or shower to help them sleep according to the Sleep Foundation. A tip from the top: let them choose their bedtime story, suggests Rebecca. Why? When you’re small, your day can involve other people making a lot of choices for you. “Bedtime is about making them feel like the boss, even though they’re not. Children are going to be much more responsive if they feel important and part of the process.”

Rebecca Pearce reading her daughter a bedtime story

Create the calm


Getting the vibe right is vital. “The cues can come from all different angles and affect different senses,” explains Rebecca. Nightlights, for example, can be a lifeline, but something this simple can also undermine your efforts. Unlike stimulating blue light, red light reminds the brain of firelight or sunset, stimulating the release of that vital, sleep-inducing melatonin. So if your kid needs a nightlight to sleep, you might want to make the simple and cheap swap to one with a gentle red glow.

Temperature turns out to be crucial too. The ideal room temperature for toddlers and young children to sleep in is 16-20°C. A smart thermostat will allow you to monitor and control the temperature in their room, independently to the rest of the home.

If your child has a hard time winding down and relaxing, then Dodow might come to your rescue. It looks like a small plate sitting on your bedside table, but don’t be fooled. Its users fall asleep (and get back to sleep) 2.5 times faster on average.2 It works by projecting a gentle light metronome onto the ceiling. If you inhale as the light expands, and exhale as it narrows, it calms your kid’s nervous system in the process.

A little boy lying in bed awake with a cuddly toy

The monster under the bed


For children, the evening “might be the first point in the day when they’ve actually sat and been alone with their thoughts,” says Rebecca. So, “the root of bad bedtimes is often anxiety and stress... it could be something that they’ve been anxious about during the day.”

The solution? Well, it might be a bit of mindfulness in the run-up to bed. A study from Harvard University showed that 55% of people who did yoga before bed found their sleep improved.3 Cosmic Kids is a YouTube channel run aimed at toddlers and up. It’s a treasure trove of yoga lessons and mindfulness practices, some of which focus specifically on winding down for sleep.

Once you’re finally tucking them in, it can become a lovely bonding moment. “It might be the only opportunity of the day when you get one-on-one time with each child,” says Rebecca. “So that’s a really key time to make them feel safe and validate their feelings.” Asking them open-ended questions (ones that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’) can help them process their day and reinforce their sense that their experiences, thoughts and feelings matter to you. It could be something sensible—“What was the biggest challenge you faced today?”—or something silly: “if you were an animal, which one would you be?”

A children's night light on in a child's bedroom


Time to tiptoe away? The transition to being alone can be traumatic. “When they’re finally in bed on their own, it makes them feel really lonely and vulnerable,” says Rebecca.

An audio story can keep them company, and acclimatise them gently into alone time. If you want to simplify their night-time tech even further, Yoto is a smart speaker that kids can control entirely by themselves. It is pretty much indestructible, and only plays bespoke audio books, music, guided meditations and educational material. A ‘sleep radio’ function on its app also allows you to play soothing sounds then turn them off remotely, instead of having to commando roll across that creaky floorboard to escape.

The bedtime routine won’t always be serene, but smoothing it out has benefits that go beyond whatever plans you’ve been dreaming of downstairs. “This is a time for bonding with your child and making them feel safe,” says Rebecca.

Now that’s pretty magical.

1   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and Health. (

2    Dodow Sleep Aid Device (

3    Harvard Medical School. Harvard Health Blog. Yoga for better sleep.  (

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